"We had some wrong thinking about youth work for a long time, that fun and games and flashiness somehow brought transformation and we're realizing it really doesn't," says Mark Ostreicher of Youth Ministries.
The fears were confirmed with a recent poll, which found that 61 percent of people in their 20s said they had participated in church activities as teens, but no longer do.
"Now we have to rethink and realize that we have to go to them," Ostreicher says. "We have to find ways to creatively enter the world of a teenager in ways that are more meaningful for them."
In many churches, the youth minister was a part time or volunteer position. His instruments? A guitar and a bible. But as the convention shows, preaching to kids is a full-time career, requiring sophisticated tools.
Technology is transforming the way gospel is spread — from iPods, which allow teens to listen to the word even when they're not in church, to video games with Christian themes for kids who want a little Jesus with their joystick. It's all meant to grab the attention of a generation that gets what it wants, when it wants it.
Youth Specialties' Mark Ostreicher talks about using technology to connect today's teens with God.
Youth minister Lincoln Skinner uses every high-tech tool he can find to pull kids in. His high schoolers have a MySpace webpage, where Lincoln drops in with messages about upcoming events.
"We are always on MySpace. We always have our iPods. We always have our cell phones," says Dylan, a youth group member.
Josh Tynan listens to sermons while he skates. He says attending a traditional service on Sunday can be too nerve wracking.
"During worship, am I raising my hand? Am I singing? Am I standing? Am I too loud? Am I not supposed to be sitting right now?," Tynan asks.
Tynan's downloaded sermons, or podcasts, have become a way of life and not a one-time concert event. Using the Internet can make an especially intimate spiritual connection. That's why observers say "Godcasting," as it's called, is catching on.
"When it is just you and God, you know, it's a lot easier to open your heart to what he has for you," Tynan says.
It's a message for many that technology tailors to one.